Little girl with robotic hand throws first pitch at Orioles game

Posted at 8:59 PM, Aug 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-18 22:59:13-04
By Jamie K. White


(CNN) — Hailey Dawson, 5, has quite an arm — and attached at the end — is a “special hand.”

She was born with Poland Syndrome, a rare birth defect, causing her right hand to not fully develop.

But through some research, professors and a team of whizzes at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Hailey doesn’t have to miss a beat. In fact, her hand is functional enough for the big leagues.

Hailey stepped up to the plate at a Baltimore Orioles baseball game Monday sporting her “Flexy Hand 2,” an orange uniform and pig tails. She tossed the ball to her favorite player, “Manny” Machado. The crowd cheered.

The Dawsons are big Orioles fans. Hailey’s 10-year-old brother even plays for a little league team in Las Vegas also called the Orioles. With baseball on the brain and a determination in her spirit — one day Hailey asked her mom, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I could throw the ball for the big Orioles?”

The Dawsons thought “why not?” A few calls and emails later, and Hailey was scheduled to throw the first pitch with her biggest fans — her family — in the crowd.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think this would happen” her mother, Yong Dawson said, “She loved it.”

The “special hand,” as Hailey calls it, was based on designs from Robohand with specifications created from molds of Hailey’s hand. The mechanics are simple: When Hailey moves her wrist, cables strung through the 3D-printed prosthesis create tension, causing the fingers to curl.

Under the supervision of professors Brendan O’Toole and Mohamed Trabia, the students completed the project in about five months.

When the Dawsons presented this project to the engineering department over a year ago, the team didn’t hesitate — they were game.

“I had a few second thoughts — if we could really do it or not — but that didn’t lost for too long,” said O’Toole, “None of us had done anything with prosthetics before.”

But the risk was worth the reward, according to graduate student Zach Cook, who saw the project from start to finish. They are now on the fourth version of Hailey’s hand, making improvements and adjustments based on her growth.

“It was fulfilling working on a project and seeing an impact on someone’s life,” he said.

And thanks to their team, and Hailey’s “go getter” attitude, she’s just a normal little girl.

“She’s your typical 5-year-old, playing in the dirt, having fun, riding her bike,” Yong Dawson told CNN affiliate WHAG.

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